Yesterday I had the opportunity to be part of the Oregon Business Plan Summit 2010 in Portland, Oregon. At a meeting about the Oregon Business Plan a few months ago in Eugene, I had the opportunity to meet Duncan Wyse, President of the Oregon Business Council, the organization behind the Oregon Business Plan. Last week Duncan asked if I would come to the Summit, speak out as a local business, and give my thoughts on innovation and education. Anyone who reads my blog knows my passion for education and business, so it was a perfect topic for me, and one that I was honored to share my thoughts on. You can see a little bit about what I said and how I was involved, if you are curious, at Oregon Live.
So what’s the deal with Oregon and the business plan anyway? What can Oregon expect in the next 10 years? I think the biggest message for anyone to understand is that the situation is BLEAK unless we understand and seize this bleak outlook as an opportunity to make some major structural changes to our government systems now. It is often close to impossible to really make change in bureaucracy because politicians all want to be re-elected and don’t want to say unpopular things. Right now the situation is so bleak for Oregon, we would be stupid (yes, it might be a harsh word, but true) not to take the opportunity to make changes that would be impossible in better economic times. Oregon is extremely hard hit by the downturn in the economy as we depend almost exclusively on income tax to fund our government. We have no sales tax; income tax is really our one source of revenue for the state of Oregon. So, when jobs are lost, companies close their doors, and people are unemployed, our state suffers tremendously. Combine that with the fact that Oregon’s average wage is WAY below that of the rest of the nation, by more than 25%. But what can we really do? I wish I had the solutions. If I did, I wouldn’t be blogging and leading a 45-person company; instead I would be leading Oregon. I definitely don’t have all the solutions. But here is what I do know:
- We can’t keep doing the same thing. Like someone said to me earlier today, “it’s like moving deck chairs around on the Titanic.”
- We can’t keep asking Oregonians for more money, but telling them that we will deliver less to them.
- We can’t keep the same financial models in government organizations. There must be accountability for results. If results aren’t achieved, people must be let go and new people who can reach the results we need should be hired.
- We need to innovate. Especially in education. The models we have are old, outdated and are clearly NOT WORKING. We need something new that takes into account the new fiscal reality but can still deliver excellence in education to our children.
- We all need to compromise and make hard choices. It’s not going to be pretty for ANYONE, but if we all get on board, we can change course and pull Oregon back up to where we all know it can be.